UF’s Billy Napier asks Gators fans to support Emory Jones

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  • Billy Napier
    American-football player (1979-)
  • Emory Jones
    American football quarterback

Florida quarterback Emory Jones had one foot out the door entering the Gators’ bowl game but remains all-in as the offseason approaches.

Coach Billy Napier hopes fans will look beyond Jones’ struggles last season and support him going forward wherever his path leads.

“This staff has given each one of these players a new beginning, kind of a fresh start,” Napier said Friday. “It’s important our fans do that.”

Jones was expected to enter the transfer portal following the Gators’ Dec. 23 loss to UCF in the Gasparilla Bowl. Instead, the redshirt senior is enrolled and expected to participate when offseason conditioning begins Monday.

Napier is happy to have Jones on board even if fans might have moved on.

“He’s done a fantastic job with all the things we’ve asked him to do,” Napier said. “I would hope our fans and all the people out there would understand what a big deal that is. This is a guy who is a class act.

“He’s managed a very difficult situation well.”

Jones tied for the SEC lead in interceptions (13) with Kentucky’s Will Levis while his 19 touchdown passes put him ninth. Jones ended 2021 with his worst passing performance of the season, completing just 14 of 36 (38.8%) for 171 yards and no touchdowns during a 29-17 loss to UCF.

“He’d be the first to admit that he’s played really well at times and he’s struggled at times,” Napier, who will coach quarterbacks, said. “For me as a coach going forward, and in particular the quarterback, you’re the teacher and they’re the student. I’m going to work with those guys exclusively every day. So, when the team struggles or the player struggles, it’s important that you take ownership of that as the teacher, and, certainly, we’ll have that approach.

“But we have a lot of work to do to get ready to play winning football, and a lot of that has to do with the quarterback position.”

The Gators have four scholarship quarterbacks on the roster other than Jones.

Expected to the be the front-runner, redshirt sophomore Anthony Richardson is rehabbing his right knee after surgery to repair damaged cartilage. Ohio State backup Jack Miller transferred to UF, while Carlos Del Rio-Wilson and Jalen Kitna will be redshirt freshmen.

“We’ve got a very capable [quarterback] room,” Napier said. “I’m excited to work with that whole group.”

Portal power

The transfer portal has delivered not only Miller, but two of Napier’s former players at Louisiana — tailback Montrell Johnson and offensive lineman Kamryn Waites.

More help is on the way.

“You could see us add a number of players over the next ... eight to 10 days,” Napier said.

Napier’s plan to build his roster primarily through high school recruiting, but recognizes the transfer portal’s ability to address deficiencies and add depth.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Miller was a 4-star prospect at Chaparral High in Scottsdale, Arizona, and appeared in five games last season at Ohio State as backup to Heisman finalist C.J. Stroud.

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Johnson, who announced his intentions Thursday, ran for 838 yards and 12 touchdowns last season as a first-year freshman. Earlier this month the 6-foot-8, 358-pound Waites decided to join Napier after appearing in three games during his inaugural college season.

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Edgar Thompson at egthompson@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @osgators.

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